It’s time for a touch of Twain with Florida Studio Theatre’s A Murder, A Mystery & A Marriage.
By Kay Kipling
Lively and fun, Florida Studio Theatre’s current production of A Murder, A Mystery & A Marriage may not leave an indelible memory—in fact, chances are you’ll forget it pretty soon after leaving the theater. But it is nevertheless very enjoyable while you’re watching it.
Based on a long-unpublished short story by Mark Twain, this musical adaptation by Aaron Posner and James Sugg tells a tale set in 1876 in the small town of Deer Lick, Missouri, where our young heroine, Mary Gray (Jillian Louis) loves and is loved by our hero, Hugh Gregory (played by Aaron Young, and the show mines a lot of laughs in the misuse of his first name because it sounds like “you”). Mary’s father, John (Trip Plymale) is a dour, hardscrabble farmer who’d prefer a rich man for his daughter, but he’s grudgingly willing for the pair to wed—until he discovers that his brother, David, will leave everything to Mary in his will, provided she does not marry Hugh. Enter a mysterious stranger (Nick Santa Maria), complete with black cape, hat, and a plethora of odd foreign accents, who announces that he’s royalty and wants to marry Mary himself, and you’ve got the picture.
Nick Santa Maria, Jillian Louis and Aaron Young in Florida Studio Theatre’s A Murder, A Mystery & A Marriage.
Santa Maria gets many of the show’s plum bits as the flamboyant stranger, and he carries them off with élan. But Louis and Young are also strong as the young lovers, in both the lighter and more somber moments of the piece. And Plymale is very believable as farmer John, especially when kvetching in his long underwear.
Andy Paterson serves as both the narrator when required and as the Rev. Hurley; Joyce Nolen is amusing as the fretful but well-intentioned mother of Mary; and Billy Vitelli rounds out the cast as both the town sheriff and the unfortunate David. An onstage band capably renders the songs, a mix of bluegrass, ballads and a little Latin juice, and choreographer Stephen Hope and director Pamela Hunt keep things moving along at a brisk, bright pace.
A Murder, A Mystery & A Marriage may not be on the list of Twain’s masterpieces, but it does entertain with its folksy flavor. It continues at FST through Nov. 28; call 366-9000 or go to floridastudiotheatre.org.